By Justin Fitzgerald
As Liverpool looks to regroup after a disappointing and controversial loss to Manchester United, Brendan Rodgers’s “next man up” mentality will be put to the test. The Reds will turn to a combination of veteran talent and youthful exuberance to fill the void left by injuries sustained by Martin Kelly, Daniel Agger, and Fabio Borini. All three injuries were serious enough to warrant substitutions, and further frustrate a side that was just beginning to hit its stride and establish an impressive rhythm and tempo, concurrent with the style of play Rodgers has been working desperately to implement.
Martin Kelly – Ruptured Cruciate Knee Ligament, out for the season
The knee injury that Martin Kelly sustained on Sunday was of the devastating variety and undoubtedly the most serious of the three. The 22 year old England International ruptured his ACL and is done for the remainder of the season. To put this in perspective, Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL (American Football), set the gold standard for returning from this type of injury (he had an ACL and MCL tear) returning to action after 8 months. Kelly does have an unfortunate history of injuries, missing time in the past with back problems and hamstring/groin pulls. Liverpool’s young right back took to twitter claiming, “It’s not the worst injury I’ve had and I’ll be fighting for my place next year.”
In the meantime Rodgers will most likely turn to Jose Enrique, moving Glen Johnson back to his preferred right back position. Kelly will certainly be missed, but fullbacks and midfielders are two areas where Liverpool is fortunate enough to have a bit of depth.
Daniel Agger – Bone Bruise (knee), length of absence undisclosed
Knowing his history of sustaining significant injuries, Liverpool fans surely feared the worst after that collision with Glen Johnson. I wrote an article a few weeks ago discussing the value of Daniel Agger, and cataloged the Dane’s historical setbacks: metatarsal injury 2007-08, back injury 2009-10, concussion 2010-11, and broken ribs 2011-12. By comparison a deep knee contusion doesn’t seem as bad, but further tests will be needed to establish a reasonable timetable for his return.
Look for some combination of the wily veteran Jamie Carragher and the promising youngster Sebastian Coates to replace the injured Agger. Regardless of who steps in though, this is a big loss for Liverpool. Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel when healthy are one of the most lock-down centerback duos in the Premier League. In fact, I would argue that aside from Luis Suarez, Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel are the hardest to replace on the current roster. Liverpool have been playing with a very high line in defense this season which requires center backs with great vision and distribution. Hopefully whoever fills in will be up to the task.
Fabio Borini – Right Ankle Sprain, length of absence undisclosed
An x-ray has indicated that Borini was fortunate enough to avoid a fracture, but the club’s medical staff has said that he does have considerable swelling, so much so that they will have to wait until it subsides before they do an MRI to asses any further damage. Sometimes a significant sprain can be almost as bad as a break, particularly if it’s of the high ankle variety – fingers crossed that that isn’t the case. Everyone has heard ad nauseam by now that Liverpool are lacking depth in striking options, so losing Borini for any length of time will certainly be detrimental. Some critics have been quick to point out that Borini hasn’t been in the best form as of late. I would argue that he just needs time to acclimate to the speed and physical nature of the English league, not to mention the fact that Rodgers has opted to play him out on the wing up front rather than in his preferred central role.
I prefer to look at this setback as a “through adversity comes opportunity” situation, and in this case opportunity comes in the form of Suso, or Jesus Joaquin “Suso” Fernandez Saez de La Torre (for short). This young Spanish footballer came on in place of the injured Borini and hardly put a foot wrong, completing 22 passes and playing an integral role in the buildup of Gerrard’s goal. Suso showed tremendous vision sending Suarez into the box and was actually unlucky not to have scored a goal of his own, seeing his shot tipped over by United’s Lindergaard. Liverpool is fortunate to have fended of Catalan Giants Barcelona and Real Madrid to secure his signing and the future looks bright.
With upcoming games against Norwich and Stoke in the Premiere League, Udinese in the Europa League, and West Brom in the League Cup, Liverpool will hopefully be able to secure some points and advance with replacements in the first team. I won’t speculate as to when Borini and Agger will to return to action, but I wouldn’t expect them back for these games. In the meantime it’s next man up for Liverpool, January is long way away.